Federal Judge Denies Alfred Cleveland's Appeal for New Trial

After 17 Years in Prison, No End in Sight for Convicted Murderer


Alfred Cleveland has been in prison for 17 years for the 1991 murder of Marsha Blakely. The flimsy case against him has garnered intermittent waves of national attention over the years, and the recent exoneration of three men in Cuyahoga County only shines the spotlight ever brighter.

But Cleveland's story isn't veering toward any sort of ending in the near future. U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary this week denied Cleveland's latest appeal for a new trial. He wrote that witness William Avery Jr. was a reliable witness and that Cleveland's appeal and claim of innocence "is not borne out by the evidence." Years ago, Avery Jr. told an attorney: "Dude's innocent... But I don't feel I have to go to jail."

In the weeks following the murders, Avery's father confronted him with a plan. His father had been working as an informant with the Lorain Police Department. He told officers he could get a guy for the Blakely murder. His relationship with the neighborhood and with the police department formed what became the backbone of Cleveland's future behind bars.

We profiled Cleveland's case in April 2013, detailing the circuitous path toward a conviction in this case. At that point, though, Cleveland had settled into an ongoing pattern of waiting for the next court ruling. His attorney, Paul Ciolino, told Scene that it's going to take a judge with a favorable social and political temperature to turn the tides:
Most involved with the case think that the buck will continue to be passed until some federal judge with a differing point of view sticks his or her nose in the matter.

"That's the only way he comes outta there," Ciolino says. What remains to be seen is just when, precisely, that's going to happen.

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